Only someone who has served as a pastor truly knows how overwhelming it is. There is never a day where the pastor leaves the church with the sense that all that needed to be done that day was completed.
Most churches expect their pastors/elders to do far more than the Bible expects of them, and the end result is often that time is taken away from their most important responsibility, the preaching and teaching of the Bible. This was the experience of the pastors in the early church as well. The local church was growing and the administrative demands of their ministry to widows were increasing.
“And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” —Acts 6:2-4
It was not that the elders felt serving the widows was beneath them, but rather nothing should be allowed to prevent them from giving their best time to prayer and preaching the Bible.
Throughout this book, we have returned to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 where God proclaims the power, centrality, and sufficiency of the Bible for every area of life.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” —2 Timothy 3:16-17
If every word of the Bible comes from God, what should pastors do? If the whole of Scripture is sufficient for every matter of faith and practice, what should pastors do?
Immediately following these words, Paul instructs Timothy, and all pastors/elders with this admonition:
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”
—2 Timothy 4:1-2
Could these words be any stronger? I charge you in the presence of God! I charge you in the presence of Christ Jesus! Judgment is coming! Christ is coming again to reign forever! In light of these things, Preach the word!
Preach when things are going well. Preach when they are not. Preach when you see lots of fruit. Preach when you do not. Challenge. Confront. Be completely patient. Let nothing distract you from this, your primary responsibility.
Pastor, do you want to disciple people toward becoming complete in Christ? Preach the Bible.
Do you want to equip everyone in the church for good works? Preach the Bible. Do you want people to come to Christ and grow in faith? Preach the Bible.
I see a growing tendency today to minimize the transformational power of preaching. People say to me things such as, “We can’t expect people to grow just by sitting and listening to some sermon.” If by that we mean, “we can’t expect people to grow who refuse to listen to the sermon and respond to God’s word in obedience,” I completely agree.
We live in a dangerous and precarious time where many people who claim to follow Christ no longer believe the proclamation of His Word has the power to bring people to repentance and transform their lives. For many years of my pastoral ministry, I fell into this trap as well.
I can remember many times when I have preached, beginning with an illustration, and then inviting the congregation to open their Bibles to the text for the day. Then when it was time to read the passage of Scripture, I would quickly read through it. Why would I quickly read the Scripture? Because I needed to get back to the good stuff, which was me, and my word, expounding on what God had said.
I had to repent of this. I preached as if my words were living and active, and sharper than any double-edged sword. When I preach today, in the moments when I am reading the words of God, my heart slows down, my words slow down, and in spirit I am aware if God is going to supernaturally work in someone’s life that day, it is going to be through what He has said.
Have you ever heard a preacher say, “Now if you only remember one thing I say today, I want you to remember this.”? I have used that phrase many times. It is a public speaking device designed to ask for a few seconds of full attention from your audience. What comes next? For me, the next words out of my mouth were always something pithy, profound, and memorable. I tried to summarize a deep truth or powerful application from the message, which I wanted people to remember.
I had to repent of this as well. Do I really believe a clever, pithy phrase has the power to bring people to repentance, transform their heart, or renew their mind? God’s words are living and active, not mine. So I made a decision if I were to ever use that device again, and I have, the next words out of my mouth would be Scripture, the supernatural words of God. The preacher must be completely convinced it is God’s words, not his, which have the power to transform souls.
– Rob Rienow
Excerpted from Limited Church: Unlimited Kingdom – Uniting Church and Family in the Great Commission – accelerate the ministry of your church by embracing the ministry model of the early church!